(This is a link to the previous installment of this series. Chain clicks to find them all.)
Wow, interest in this series waned abruptly, and once again I notice how much my motivation to blog is tied to getting feedback. (Which I still believe to be the norm among non-commercial bloggers.) Well, I had already started with this entry, so I finished it, but it just might be the last.
Army of Allah
The biggest issue with this card is obviously its name. Aside from that, it would definitely be printable as is, although the restriction to attacking creatures isn’t especially white, and its power level is a bit below what we can expect – the staple card fulfilling this function nowadays is Fortify, after all. I actually consider another card the closest to an update, though, because of the religious connotations of the original, since it is tied closer to the color White:
Neither abilitiy of this card could be saved – banding is just way too complicated. Also, specifically referring to another card by name isn’t something I feel is good game design. (Okay, there is some merit in giving inexperienced players a direction in both limited and casual deckbuilding by pointing them that explicitly towards certain combos, but I still hate this, and it’s not what Camel does anyway.) Oh yes, and with my redesigned Desert that ability would of course be totally meaningless!
So, once again, I had to fall back on the card’s flavor, which is about helping your other creatures to survive harsh conditions. Actually, camels are themselves rather tough beasts, so I reflected that, too.
That’s probably the greatest card name ever… on the causing trouble scale, at least. Apart from that, I’m not happy with this card’s mechanical execution. That is a very demanding mana cost here, and it is totally fine if an enchantment with that cost just gives +2/+1 to all of your creatures. Instead, though, there are no less than three disadvantages tacked onto it: The bonus only affects white creatures; it also affects your opponent’s creatures; and most importantly, your opponent (even a specifically chosen opponent in a multiplayer game) must have permanents of a specifically chosen color on the battlefield at all times, or you have to sacrifice your enchantment. That last stipulation alone makes this card essentially unplayable in constructed, but even in limited that is a real issue (in addition to that forbidding mana cost), since you will often attack with a superior force, only to lose your attackers after combat to your opponent’s smaller creatures because those take your stats-boosting enchantment with them if they all die.
I believe that Jihad’s mana cost is already enough of a hoop to jump through, and that it is also doing a fine job of conveying the card’s flavor all by itself in conjunction with its name. Note also that jihad is a religious duty which does not end with the defeat of an enemy (or even requires an enemy, for that matter), but needs to be upheld continuously. So I decided that all that was needed was cleaning this card up, and created a design for those limited environments where its mana cost can be supported at least by some decks.
Hating on specific creature tribes is another misguided concept in my opinion. It makes for terrible limited play, and produces fringe sideboard cards for constructed at best. Djinns and especially efreets being rather seldomly used creature types (Khans of Tarkir block notwithstanding) doesn’t make this any better.
The origin of this mechanic is the Islamic interpretation of King Suleiman as the ruler over jinns, and I see no need that this rulership expresses itself in killing them. However, positive interactions face the issue that djinns, efreets and demons are just not white creature tribes in Magic, so I looked for other hooks. Suleiman is generally described as wise, wealthy and powerful, and he is said to control the winds, which gave me more than enough to work with.
This card feels definitely out of flavor for White with modern sensibilities, but in fact each color is allowed to have trample, although White is probably making the least use of it. Its power level is low, even for limited, but it is still a perfectly usable creature, and if there were specific reasons to put in into a set (for example, tribal synergies with its current creature type, knight), the only thing standing in the way would, once again, be its name. Apart from that, this design is acceptable as is.
So, this card is about playing a game within the game to reflect the concept of a story told within a story. No matter how adorable that design might look, it plays absolutely horrible. So, what to do?
Well, the story of Shahrazad is that of a young woman fated to get executed the next day, but prolonging her life by telling the king who would have her killed stories, which turn out so entertaining that he decides to let her live for just one more day, again and again. Now that is a concept which translates nicely into game terms, I think!